Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

56                               THE GAY GENIUS

there was not a bad person in this world. To the end this seemed to be
his trouble; he could not see faults in others. His wife said to him: "Be
careful of those people. A friendship which is too quickly formed never
lasts." Tungpo admitted that her advice turned out to be true. She
had learned this wisdom, I think, from the accepted Chinese saying:
"The friendship between gentlemen is mild, like the taste of water"
it has no exciting flavour, but one never grows tired of it. Sincere
friendship is never demonstrative. Really good friends don't write
letters to each other, for in the complete trust of each other's friend-
ship no one needs to write. And after a few years of parting, they
meet again and find the friendship as true as ever.

Su Tungpo was the type that was unhappy and bored when he had
nothing to do. A drought, however, was threatening to come over the
land there. It had not rained for a long time, and the farmers were
desperately worried over their crops. There was nothing to do except
to pray for rain, and it was the magistrate's duty to do it. Su Tungpo
was suddenly aroused into activity. Something was wrong somewhere,
for the gods were angry, and the farmers were going to suffer if rain
did not come immediately. He had a very good case to present to the
gods. In this he could not possibly fail and he was ready to plead for
the farmers before the gods with all the eloquence in his command.
And he did.

On the south of the Wei River there is a high mountain range,
generally known as the Tsinling Mountains, and in this range the
highest and best-known peak is the majestic Taipo. On top of the'
Taipo Mountain, in front of a Taoist temple, there was a little pool
where lived the God of Rain, a "dragon" who could disguise himself
in the form of any small fish, Su Tungpo went up to this temple and
prayed. He pleaded for the farmers, but, like a good lawyer, he tried
to make the Dragon God see that a drought or famine was not to the
god's own interests. After flattering the god a little, he said in the
official prayer: '"There has been no rain or snow since last winter.
Thou knowest well that the people's lives depend upon their crops. If
it doesn't rain now, there will be a famine; the people will starve and
be forced to become bandits. This is not only my personal duty as a
magistrate to prevent; as a spirit, thou shouldst not stand quietly by
and do nothing about it. His Imperial Majesty has conferred upon thee
the different honours, and we have kept up the sacrifices, all for this
day when we may need thee. Wilt thou please listen and fulfil thy
obligation to His Majesty?"

Coming down from the Taipo Mountain, he went on to visit various
places, particularly one that he had missed on his previous trip. He had
offered the prayer on the seventh day of the month, and, returning to